White House defends Donald Trump's Holocaust statement that failed to mention Jews

Critics argued Donald Trump’s statement was ‘troubling’ and served to ‘generalise’ the Holocaust 

Maya Oppenheim
Sunday 29 January 2017 12:46 GMT
The President’s Holocaust Memorial Day statement contrasted those of former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton who explicitly mentioned the plight of Jewish people
The President’s Holocaust Memorial Day statement contrasted those of former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton who explicitly mentioned the plight of Jewish people (Getty)

The White House has defended its decision not to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement after receiving widespread criticism.

On International Holocaust Day on Friday, President Donald Trump failed to explicitly mention Nazi Germany’s mass murder of six million Jews.

Critics argued the omission served to “generalise” the genocide. The head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, said the exclusion of the word “Jews” – the main victims of the Holocaust – was “puzzling and troubling”.

The Trump administration failed to respond to questions about the statement until Saturday, when spokeswoman Hope Hicks sent CNN a link to a Huffington Post story about the millions of people who were killed by the Nazis for their ethnicities, disabilities, religious beliefs, political views or sexual orientation.

“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” Hicks insisted.

The aide refused to answer a question about whether Mr Trump did not mention Jews because he did not want to offend other Holocaust victims, saying only: “It was our honour to issue a statement in remembrance of this important day.”

Hicks initially referred the news network to a statement from Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress which appeared to criticise Greenblatt and the ADL.

“It does no honour to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust to play politics with their memory,” the Lauder statement read. “Any fair reading of the White House statement today on the International Holocaust Memorial Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history.”

Instead of mentioning Jews in Friday’s controversial statement, the White House only referred to “innocent people” targeted by the Nazis.

“It is with a heavy heart and sombre mind that we remember and honour the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust,” the statement read. “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror. Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.

"In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

Pope meets Rabbis and warns about dangers of anti-Semitism

The billionaire property developer’s Holocaust Day statement is very different to those issued by former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton, who all explicitly mentioned the plight of Jewish people.

Mr Trump drew heavy criticism for his statement, with Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American author, saying: “This is not an accidental omission. He is generalising the Holocaust the way the Iranian government or Neo-Nazis do. There’s a purpose behind it.”

The White House’s statement follows several disturbing anti-Jewish incidents across America, including two waves of bomb threats at Jewish community centres, and a group of neo-Nazis that planned to march against the Jewish residents of a small town in Montana.

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